The small, one room Russell Memorial Library, dedicated on July 18, 1971, was the gift of Dr. George A. Russell in memory of his father, Albert P. Russell. Located across the highway from the town hall on the Monkton Ridge Road (VT Route 116) the library has a history closely associated with the Russell family.
In 1905, the elder Russell, whose ancestors settled in Monkton about 1875, started the first library. It operated out of his son Harvey’s home before being relocated to the town hall. In 1970, George set money aside for a separate library building, and the following year construction was completed and circulation began.
Harvey, and his wife Celia, donated the site while Lee, Harvey’s brother, worked with him to raise the building. The two men, who were farmers in town, finished the interior and built book cases into the walls. Their fine carpentry adds to the charm of the comfortably furnished reading area, paneled walls, and oak floor.
The white clapboard building is simple Classical Revival in style with a columned porch, hip roof, and windows that look over rural views and mountains.
In 1992, The Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Association (VOSHA) ordered the building closed after discovering that a main support beam had rotted. A sign was put up on the Monkton Bristol Road in the center of the town to solicit funds for the $8,000 – $10,000 repair job. It appealed in large letters : *SAVE OUR LIBRARY* FOUNDATION IS CRUMBLING. DONATE TO BLDG. FUND THRU TOWN CLERK. Librarian Debra Chamberlin noted that it was daunting goal for a library with an annual operating budget of just $3,000, but they succeeded. The library closed for six months in 1993 for construction, then reopened to provide current best sellers for adults and services and entertainment for children.
Fun Fact: Dr. Russell, reputed to be Norman Rockwell’s model for the painting “The Family Doctor,” owned a camp in Monkton on nearby Cedar Lake/Monkton Pond. He distinguished himself as a physician in Arlington where he donated another library, the world-famous George A. Russell Collection of Vermontiana.
From “Where the Books Are: History and Architecture of Vermont’s Public Libraries with Photos and Anecdotes” by Patricia Belding, with photographs by John C. Belding, published 1996.